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Man sentenced to 26 to 52 years in arson fire that killed 2

June 30, 2021 GMT

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man who pleaded guilty in the deaths of two men — whose bodies were found after a fire in western Pennsylvania more than three years ago — has been sentenced to 26 to 52 years in prison.

Vincent Smith, 61, was sentenced Wednesday in Allegheny County Court on earlier guilty pleas to voluntary manslaughter and arson endangering persons in the February 2018 blaze in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood.

Authorities alleged that Smith was fighting with 71-year-old homeowner Steven Pariser and 54-year-old John Robert Van Dyke over marijuana when he beat them and threw them down the basement steps, hiding their bodies with trash bags and clothes before starting the fire. Investigators said both men had blunt force injuries and their deaths were ruled homicides.

Van Dyke’s brother had reported him missing and officers traced his cellphone to the row home, authorities said. Officers say after they entered, they saw Smith striking matches and tossing them to the floor. One ignited in a pool of lighter fluid, and officers retreated as the house caught fire, authorities said in a criminal complaint.

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Smith was rescued and taken to UPMC Mercy’s burn unit in critical condition. Pariser and Van Dyke’s bodies were found after the blaze. Prosecutors said that when Smith was interviewed by detectives, he had fresh scratches on his hand and a bite mark, as well as bruising on his body, the Tribune-Review reported.

In April, Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and four counts of arson endangering persons. Other charges including aggravated arson and abuse of a corpse were withdrawn. Smith told Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani that he set the fire in an effort to harm himself, not anyone else.